If you’re a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and want to go to college, you might wonder what your funding options are. You may not have someone in your life who has navigated this process and might not know where to start.
Unfortunately, DACA recipients aren’t eligible for federal student loans, but you still have options. Read on to learn about DACA financial aid and DACA student loans.
DACA financial aid options
The first thing you can do is talk to your high school counselor or financial aid office. The school you plan to attend may have financial aid available. In these cases, you might be prompted to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to generate a Student Aid Report (SAR) to get aid through school.
If you’re asked to fill out the FAFSA by your counselor or financial aid office, you’ll need to enter your Social Security number (SSN) and answer “no” to the question that asks if you’re a U.S. citizen. The tough part here is that many undocumented students may not be eligible for an SSN. But if you’re a DACA recipient with an SSN, then filling out the FAFSA should be the first step to see if there’s aid available through your school.
DACA recipients, in some cases, may also be eligible for in-state tuition. You can find more information about filling out the form on the Federal Student Aid site.
Financial aid by state
Though you may not be eligible for federal aid, you might be eligible for support at the state level. You can check out this map from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, which shows grants and scholarships available by state.
The following states have implemented legislatiation that offers undocumented immigrants in-state tuition:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- District of Columbia
As of 2018, there are five states that have supported laws making DACA recipients eligible for financial aid:
- New Jersey
Additionally, the following states have some programs that offer financial assistance to DACA recipients:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
DACA student loans from private lenders
Seeing as federal aid isn’t available to DACA recipients — and only some states offer assistance — another option is private DACA student loans.
Some private loan lenders allow immigrants loans if they have a U.S. citizen as a cosigner. A cosigner is someone willing to act as a co-applicant and be legally responsible for the loan if you end up missing payments.
Discover offers private student loans to international students with a U.S. citizen as a cosigner. The cosigner should also have a strong credit score in order to get approved.
MPOWER Financing is another option specifically designed for international students. The good news is that it doesn’t require a cosigner or any credit history.
Citizens Bank is another private student loan lender that makes private loans available to international students — so long as they have a cosigner with strong credit who is also a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
One of the better options may be Stilt, a company geared toward providing loans to immigrants. It doesn’t require borrowers to have an SSN or a cosigner.
Other financial options for DACA recipients
There are some organizations that offer financial assistance to DACA recipients. To start, search the DREAMer’s Roadmap website for scholarship options.
You can also check TheDream.US, an organization that works with 70-plus colleges in 16 states to help DACA recipients attend college. Its mission states, ”We believe nothing should stand in your way of a college education—not the cost, your immigrant status, or the lack of financial aid. Our scholarships can help you pay for your college education.”
Another option is to research organizations that may offer support or financial assistance on the Dream Educational Empowerment Program’s resource page. Additionally, you might want to see if personal loan lenders will approve you for funding.
Lastly, another route to consider is moving to a state like California where there’s more support for DACA recipients. You’d need to move and get residency status but then may be able to get more financial support.
Paying for school
If you’re a DACA recipient, trying to pay for school can be stressful. You don’t have the same options as other students. It can feel isolating and frustrating. There are some private lenders that offer loans, like Discover, and you can check out Stilt as well.
One of the DACA recipients that Student Loan Planner spoke with had their wife act as a cosigner and got loans through Citizens Bank. This borrower was able to secure $120,000 with a 7% to 8% annual percentage rate (APR) with a 10- to 15-year term. There was a non-resident option, and submitting an I-766 form was an option for eligible documents for the application.
Another borrower we spoke with got a friend to act as a cosigner and qualified for a $10,000 student loan through Discover. The advice they gave to DACA students was to find the right bank and cosigner to help with your situation.
If possible, you may need to put down cash. Consider your current assets, like your home and car. Can you take out a second mortgage? Sell your car? Borrow money from a family member? You can also check out personal loan lenders as well.
It can be tough to pay for school — but don’t give up. You’re not alone, and there are organizations out there that can help, plus certain states that offer support.